openDemocracyUK

This vote shows that people do care about democracy

The English left will only succeed if it includes democratic demands alongside its economic strategies.

Jeremy Gilbert
24 June 2016
Debating_chamber,_Scottish_Parliament_(31-05-2006).jpg

"It is no accident that the people of Scotland, where radical devolution has given them a much more potent sense of democratic accountability and collective autonomy, have voted a completely different way." - Scottish Parliament

I'm going to keep saying this again and again and again.

The vote is not just a vote against austerity and it is not just a vote for xenophobia.

It is also a desperate vote against a situation in which the mechanisms of representative democracy have completely broken down. The policy agendas pursued by successive governments since the 1970s have not matched the express desires of voters, whether the issue was immigration or the privatisation of public services. The EU is an obvious and perfectly appropriate target for anger at this situation, being a classic example of a 'post-democratic' institution (as we saw when they imposed an agenda with no legitimacy on the people of Greece). It is no accident that the people of Scotland, where radical devolution has given them a much more potent sense of democratic accountability and collective autonomy, have voted a completely different way. `

If the left and our political leaders – above all the Labour leadership – do not come forward with loud and explicit demands for serious democratic reform in England and Wales, including radical devolution, an English parliament with real powers, conversion of the Welsh Assembly into a full parliament, Proportional Representation for the House of Commons, and a radical programme of participatory democracy in local government, then the people will not believe that we have any credible plan to end austerity or represent their interests in any other way.

Just proposing an economic programme – which is all Corbyn and McDonnell are talking about – will not work, because people will not believe that we will implement it. The left only captured the political mainstream in Scotland by attaching its economic and social programme to a radical programme of democratic reform. If we don't do the same then we will continue to sound like just another bunch of politicians making promises, and we will lose.

The residual vulgar Marxist belief that all this stuff doesn't matter, that all people care about is jobs and housing, is a huge problem here. If we don't have a programme which addresses issues of political democracy and cultural identity, then the right will keep capturing those issues and leaving us isolated. We have to link up our economic and social programme with a narrative which admits how totally broken our political system has become. If we don't, then we will never sound credible to those who already know in their bones that this is true.

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